They died by a bridge in Ukraine. This is their story


They met in highschool however grew to become a pair years later, after assembly once more on a dance ground at a Ukrainian nightclub. Married in 2001, they lived in a commuter city exterior Kyiv, in an residence with their two youngsters and their canines, Benz and Cake. She was an accountant and he was a pc programmer.

Serhiy and Tetiana Perebyinis owned a Chevrolet minivan. They shared a rustic residence with associates, and Tetiana Perebyinis was a devoted gardener and an avid skier. She had simply returned from a ski journey to Georgia. Then, late final month, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the combating shortly moved towards Kyiv, the capital.

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than artillery shells have been crashing into their neighbourhood. One night time, a shell hit their constructing, prompting Tetiana Perebyinis and the kids to maneuver to the basement. Lastly, together with her husband away in japanese Ukraine tending to his ailing mom, Tetiana Perebyinis determined it was time to take her youngsters and run.

They didn’t make it. Tetiana Perebyinis (43) and her two youngsters, Mykyta (18) and Alisa (9) together with a church volunteer who was serving to them, Anatoly Berezhnyi (26) have been killed final Sunday as they dashed throughout the concrete remnants of a broken bridge of their city of Irpin, attempting to evacuate to Kyiv.

Their baggage – a blue curler suitcase, a grey suitcase and a few backpacks – was scattered close to their our bodies, together with a inexperienced carrying case for a small canine that was barking. They have been 4 folks among the many many who tried to cross that bridge this previous weekend, however their deaths resonated far past their Ukrainian suburb.

The bodies of Tetiana Perebyinis (43) and her two children, Mykyta (18) and Alisa (9), along with a church volunteer who was helping them, Anatoly Berezhnyi (26) in their town of Irpin, near Kyiv last Sunday. Photograph: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times
The our bodies of Tetiana Perebyinis (43) and her two youngsters, Mykyta (18) and Alisa (9), together with a church volunteer who was serving to them, Anatoly Berezhnyi (26) of their city of Irpin, close to Kyiv final Sunday. {Photograph}: Lynsey Addario/The New York Occasions

{A photograph} of the household and Berezhnyi mendacity bloodied and immobile, taken by New York Occasions photographer Lynsey Addario, encapsulates the indiscriminate slaughter by an invading Russian military that has more and more focused closely populated civilian areas.

The household’s lives and their ultimate hours have been described on Friday by Serhiy Perebyinis and a godmother, Polina Nedava. Serhiy Perebyinis, additionally 43, mentioned he discovered of the demise of his household on Twitter, from posts by Ukrainians.

Breaking down in tears, Perebyinis mentioned he instructed his spouse the night time earlier than she died that he was sorry he wasn’t together with her.

“I instructed her, ‘Forgive me that I couldn’t defend you,’ “ he mentioned. “I attempted to take care of one particular person, and it meant I can not defend you.”

“She mentioned, ‘Don’t fear, I’ll get out.’”

After she didn’t, he mentioned he felt it was essential that their deaths had been recorded in images and video. “The entire world ought to know what is going on right here,” he mentioned.

Displaced within the east

The Perebyinis household had already been displaced as soon as by struggle, in 2014, once they have been dwelling in Donetsk within the east and Russia fomented a separatist rebellion. They moved to Kyiv to flee the combating and began rebuilding their lives. When Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine final month, they might hardly imagine it was occurring once more, Serhiy Perebyinis mentioned.

Tetiana Perebyinis’s employer, SE Rating, a software program firm with workplaces in California and London, had inspired staff to depart Ukraine instantly as soon as the combating began. It had even rented rooms for them in Poland, Serhiy Perebyinis mentioned. However his spouse delayed her departure due to uncertainty over how one can evacuate her mom, who has Alzheimer’s illness.

A colleague at work, Anastasia Avetysian, mentioned that SE Rating had supplied emergency funds for workers to evacuate and that Tetiana Perebyinis, because the chief accountant in Ukraine, had been busy in her ultimate days disbursing them.

“We have been all in contact together with her,” Avetysian mentioned. “Even when she was hiding within the basement, she was optimistic and joking in our group chat that the corporate would now have to do a particular operation to get them out, like Saving Personal Ryan.”

A portrait of Tetiana Perebyinis. Serhiy Perebyinis said he felt it was important the deaths of his wife and children had been recorded in photographs and video. Photograph: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times
A portrait of Tetiana Perebyinis. Serhiy Perebyinis mentioned he felt it was essential the deaths of his spouse and kids had been recorded in images and video. {Photograph}: Lynsey Addario/The New York Occasions

However behind the jokes was a interval of ready and intense worrying, Serhiy Perebyinis mentioned. His son, Mykyta, began sleeping throughout the day and staying up all night time, conserving a vigil over his mom and sister. When there have been sounds of combating, he woke them up and all three would transfer right into a hall, away from the home windows. “My son was below numerous stress,” Serhiy Perebyinis mentioned.

On Saturday, after two days within the basement, the household made a primary try at evacuating. However as they have been packing up their minivan, a tank rolled by on the road exterior. They determined to attend.

The subsequent day they have been up and transferring by about 7am. Tetiana Perebyinis had mentioned the plan in minute element together with her husband. She and her two youngsters and her mom and father, who lived close by, would be part of a church group and attempt to evacuate towards Kyiv, after which get someplace protected from there.

On foot

They drove so far as they might in Irpin, however then Tetiana Perebyinis was pressured to desert the minivan. They set out on foot towards a broken bridge over the Irpin River. To flee, they have been pressured to cross 100 metres or so of uncovered avenue on one facet of the bridge. As Russian forces fired into the realm, many tried to hunt cowl behind a brick wall.

Berezhnyi, the church volunteer, who had earlier evacuated his circle of relatives however had returned to assist others, was with Tetiana Perebyinis and her youngsters once they started to sprint towards the opposite facet. By way of the night time, Serhiy Perebyinis had tried to observe his spouse’s location utilizing a locator app on their telephones. But it surely confirmed nothing: The household was in a basement, with out cell reception.

Round daybreak, he mentioned, he noticed one ping, displaying them at their residence tackle. However nothing confirmed them transferring. Cell phone protection had develop into too spotty within the city. The subsequent ping of a location on Serhiy Perebyinis’s cellphone got here at about 10am on Sunday. It was at Scientific Hospital No 7 in Kyiv.

One thing had gone unsuitable. He known as his spouse’s quantity. It was ringing, however no person answered. He known as his youngsters’s cellphone numbers, with the identical consequence. A half-hour or so later, he noticed a publish on Twitter saying a household had been killed in a mortar strike on the evacuation route out of Irpin. A short while later, one other Twitter publish appeared, with an image. “I recognised the baggage and that’s how I knew,” he mentioned.

When the mortar shell hit, the household and Berezhnyi have been about 12 metres away from the crater left by the mortar. That they had no likelihood. The explosion despatched out a twig of lots of of jagged, metallic shrapnel shards. Their our bodies slumped onto the muddy avenue beside a monument to second World Warfare lifeless from Irpin. A plaque on the monument learn: “Everlasting reminiscence to those that fell for the fatherland within the Nice Patriotic Warfare.”

Tetiana Perebyinis’s dad and mom have been behind the mom and kids and have been unhurt. They’re now staying with Nedava, the godmother.

The next day, a snowstorm blew over Kyiv. The suitcases, one among which had been knocked open by the explosion or later opened by passersby, lay coated in snow on the road beside blood stains. It held solely garments: a pink baby’s tank prime, sweatpants, yellow and blue child-size socks, apparently for Alisa.

A ‘gentle’ spirit

When requested to explain his spouse, Serhiy Perebyinis slumped in his chair. Nedava supplied that she had a “gentle” spirit, was usually joking and cheered up a room. “We have been married for 23 years and refurbished three flats and by no means argued as soon as,” Serhiy Perebyinis mentioned.

In an image provided their family, the wedding of Serhiy and Tetiana Perebyinis. Photograph: Perebyinis family via The New York Times
In a picture supplied their household, the marriage of Serhiy and Tetiana Perebyinis. {Photograph}: Perebyinis household by way of The New York Occasions

Berezhnyi had moved his spouse to western Ukraine however had returned to Irpin to assist with the evacuation organised by his church, the Irpin Bible Church, mentioned the pastor, Mykola Romaniuk. When the mortar strike started, with shells touchdown first a number of hundred metres away, Romaniuk mentioned different church volunteers noticed Berezhnyi run to assist Tetiana Perebyinis.

“He took her suitcase and so they began operating,” he mentioned. Berezhnyi, Romaiuk mentioned, was quiet and beneficiant. “He was the type of good friend who is able to assist with no phrases wanted,” he mentioned. “I have no idea how God can forgive such crimes.”

In mid-February, earlier than the struggle began, Serhiy Perebyinis had travelled to his hometown, Donetsk, in rebel-held japanese Ukraine, to take care of his mom, who was sick with Covid-19. After hostilities started, the crossing level closed and he was trapped within the east.

To return to Kyiv from separatist-controlled japanese Ukraine after the demise of his household, Serhiy Perebyinis travelled into Russia and flew to the town of Kaliningrad, to cross a land border into Poland. On the Russia-Poland border, he mentioned, Russian guards questioned him, took his fingerprints and appeared able to arrest him for unclear causes, though he was ultimately allowed to journey on.

He mentioned he instructed them: “My entire household died in what you name a particular operation and we name a struggle. You are able to do what you need with me. I’ve nothing left to lose.’’ – This text initially appeared in The New York Occasions


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